Everyone knows that the healthiest thing you can drink is water. But other drinks (ahem, Frappucinos) that are terribly tempting are also terrible for your health. While moderation is the key to enjoying almost all delicious things, registered dietitian Isabel Smith says these drinks are worth cutting out cold-turkey (with few exceptions):
1. Pasteurized Fruit Juice
The biggest problem with fruit juice is that a glass or two tends to contain way more fruit than you'd regularly consume in one sitting. And all that fruit contains sugar that can amount to a meal's worth of calories pretty quickly. But you probably don't - and definitely shouldn't - chug a glass of OJ and call that a meal. Juice is devoid of the filling fiber found in fruit, protein, and fat - so it's terribly unbalanced.
When food manufactures pasteurize fruit juice, they often add coloring and extra sugar, and end up killing off some of the natural nutrients found in fruit. It's why fresh-pressed vegetable juices (which tend to contain less sugar and maintain more of the fresh pulp that contributes fiber and nutrients) are a better bet for juice junkies.
2. Conventional Milk
The difference between conventional milk and organic is that the former may contain estrogen, as it comes from cows treated with hormones. Experts worry that these consuming extra sex hormones can make you more susceptible to certain cancers. Some research links milk consumption to higher rates of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer - it's why Smith recommends organic dairy products (particularly for big milk drinkers).
3. Sweetened Non-Dairy Milks
Yes, dairy-free milks are a godsend for lactose-intolerant folks who want their cereal/coffee/cookies with milk. But many flavored brands are loaded with empty calories, and some contain carrageenan, a thickening agent derived from seaweed that can irritate your digestive system. Smith suggests going for unsweetened plain or vanilla-flavored non-dairy milk that's organic or free of GMOs.
4. Zero-Calorie, Artificially-Sweetened Beverages
If a tasty product seems too good to be true, it probably is: Sweet-tasting sports drinks, iced teas, and sodas that are mysteriously devoid of calories often contain chemicals, artificial colorings, and artificial sweeteners that may seem to satisfy your sweet tooth, but don't actually fill you up. If this kind of stuff is present (just check the ingredient label), Smith says it can mess with the balance of bacteria in your gut - which plays a big role in weight regulation, according to recent research. To play it safe, drink water and boost the flavor with a squeeze of lemon or some frozen berries.
5. Regular Cola
Straight-up soda is flavored with sugars that contribute calories without nutrients. Dark sodas may also contain phosphoric acid, which reduces the amount of calcium your body absorbs, ultimately weakening your bones and increasing your risk of injuries now, and osteoporosis later on. If you're going to drink soda no matter what you read, go for the one that contains the lowest sugar you can find, , Smith suggests, and make sure it's made with natural flavors and without chemical additives.
6. A Venti-Sized Caffeine Fix
A massive coffee will obviously rev you up - but after you buzz through your morning, all that caffeine can mess with your sleep schedule and nervous system (hello, coffee shakes). If your eyes don't fully open without caffeine, gradually scale back on size, or try half-caf.
7. Premixed Alcoholic Beverages
While premixed, bottled cocktails are crazy convenient and genius in their own right, they're often full of preservatives and way more sugar than any sane person would scoop into a homemade drink. Instead of settling for a twist-off margarita, mix tequila with lime juice and soda at home (or order it at any bar).
8. Muscle Milks and Pre-Made Protein Drinks
Unless you're an *~eLiTe~* athlete, you probably don't need to be guzzling extra protein. (Most women only need about 46 grams of it per day.) Besides, meals made from whole foods are inherently more satisfying than drinking lab-made meal replacements, which contain sugars and god knows what other flavorings. If you're a smoothie fiend and do prefer to drink your calories, try unflavored protein powder, unsweetened almond milk, and fruit for a flavorful combo that's free of the extra stuff, Smith says.
9. Sports Drinks and Electrolyte-Replacement Drinks
These drinks contain artificial colors and sweeteners that just don't qualify as food. For non-athletes who want to nurse a hangover or replenish fluids after a super-sweaty fitness class, drink water or unflavored coconut water, which is a natural source of electrolytes that tends to contain fewer additives. (Endurance athletes are the only ones who may need special sports drinks, Smith says.)
10. Fancy Coffee Drinks
Sorry: Frappuccinos are just sugar bombs that contain hundreds of empty calories - so your afternoon treat could end up having more calories than your lunch. Stick to the basic stuff - coffee, tea, cappuccino, and skim options without added artificial coloring sand sweeteners. (Or consult this list for coffee drinks that aren't loaded with sugar.)
11. Warm Water Bottles
Heat can degrade the plastic, and experts worry that this can cause chemicals to leech into the water. If you drink contaminated water on the regular, this could disrupt your hormones and increase your risk of cancer risk and reproductive problems.
12. Club Soda
Unlike seltzer (which is just water with bubbles), club soda and some mineral waters can be a sneaky source of sodium, with upwards of 50 milligrams per serving. Look for sodium-free varieties with natural flavors, if you're into that. And look out for brands that contain chemicals, which will be listed on the label. Another thing: You don't want to get all you fluids from bubbly water - it can be less hydrating than straight-up water, Smith says.
13. Juice Made From Concentrate
"Made from concentrate" is a fancy way of saying "processed," Smith explains. And that means the product could contain - you guessed it - iffy chemicals and superfluous sugars. As a general rule, fresher is almost always better option.
By Elizabeth Narins
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